Building Our Energy Futurehttp://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/01/11/building-our-energy-future.aspx Aimee Duffy
January 11, 2013
Most days I use this space to extol the virtues of companies that bring our energy from the ground to the market, the companies that help power our country with oil and gas. These businesses are necessary, but without a doubt, the key to our energy future is to use less of it, and make what energy we do use, do more.
When we talk about saving energy, the first thought that occurs most times is using less gasoline. It is one of the most tangible energies we consume. Every day we see gas stations, hear about how high gas prices are, or actually fill up our tanks. And, frankly, vehicle fuel efficiency helps our energy saving cause immensely -- by 2025 new fuel standards will reduce American oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day.
But energy efficiency in our homes and buildings is just as important. The U.S. could save tens of billions of dollars every year, simply by upgrading our buildings so that they use less electricity. It is a strategy that has far reaching effects on both the economy and the environment.
The basic story
In an interview with the Washington Post in November, Robin Roy of the National Resources Defense Council put the long-term picture in perspective, explaining that merely bringing residential building codes up to the latest U.S. standards by 2030 would allow us to save the same amount of energy every year as eliminating 50 coal-fired power plants.
Many other states are following D.C.'s lead, and below is a snapshot of some of the different efficiency projects.
Private home builders are active in the state as well. KB Home (NYSE: KBH) has developed entire sustainable communities, boasting that many of its residences are more efficient than California's already stringent new-build standards. And KB isn't alone, Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL) is utilizing everything from solar arrays and geothermal heating in its projects to improve efficiency.
The future is here, almost
Seattle's Bullitt Center is billed as the "Greenest Commercial Building in the World," and the specs are pretty amazing. It is designed to produce as much electricity as it uses, which would make it both energy and carbon neutral. Seattle is the land of cloudy skies and persistent rainfall, but the Bullitt Center is so efficient that the 240 kilowatt solar array on its roof can generate 100% of its year round electricity.
All that rainfall will be put to work, too. Rainwater will be gathered in a 56,000 gallon underground cistern, where it will be stored until needed, treated, and used throughout the building. Overall, the Bullitt Center uses one-fifth the amount of energy as an average building its size.
Masdar City is the Bullitt Center on steroids. The Abu Dhabi project is the world's first attempt at a zero-carbon city, and serves as a very tangible example of the Middle East's burgeoning effort at growing renewable energy.
Spearheaded by the renewable energy company Masdar, Masdar City was conceived to be a cl